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Mosha & Motala Get New Legs

Two lucky elephants are mobile again with their new legs produced in the pioneering elephant prosthetic leg factory at Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital. The first elephant hospital in the world can now make and repair artificial legs for these massive animals on-site.

Mosha (left) and Motala (right) showing each other their new prosthetic legs

Both Mosha and Motala are lucky to even be alive. Their story begins in the logging camps near the Thai-Burma border, where elephants are used in place of machines to haul heavy logs. It was there that each independently stepped on long forgotten land mines still buried, but lethally active, from long ago wars. In just an instant, the massive flesh and bone of an elephant leg can be disintegrated by a handful of high explosives.

This urethane disc cushions each step as the elephant walks

Fortunately for both elephants, there is a hospital in Thailand that accepts only elephants as patients and does not charge their owners or mahouts, their personal handlers, for medicine, food, medical procedures or anything else the elephant needs to be nursed back to health. Mahouts are encouraged to stay with their elephant, also at no charge. All funds needed to operate the hospital come from donations made by caring individuals and organizations worldwide.

FAE founder Soraida Salwala reassures Motala while the staff adjusts her new leg

FAE made the decision to build their own prosthetics factory after determining that this is the best way to keep Mosha and Motala in functional artificial legs. In the past, equipment has been brought in for measuring, casting and construction new prosthetics. When repairs were needed, the legs had to be shipped to another facility causing the elephants to be without their prosthetics for months at a time. Until getting her new leg last month, Motala had been without one for two years. Now, needed repairs can be made quickly and easily.

M. Boonyu adjusts the straps on Motala’s prosthesis

Amazingly, in its first month of operation, the leg factory was able to construct brand new legs for both elephants and even make minor repairs to Mosha’s after it was damaged in use. The amount of stress applied to the steel and polymer legs far exceeds what human prosthetics experience. After all, these animals weigh-in at thousands of pounds each.

Making a repair to the metal shaft of the prosthetic leg

Mosha is still a young elephant, who, like any child, is growing every day. That means the leg that fits today won’t be large enough next year. You can’t just go shopping for the next size up. Each leg needs to be custom designed and fitted so it will work correctly and be comfortable for the elephant to wear.

Mosha enjoys wearing her prosthetic

Mosha and Motala are expected to live long, natural elephant lives. They can walk with ease now, although they won’t be returning to the logging camps. Instead, they live as permanent residents at the hospital. Sadly, there are still thousands, maybe millions, of unexploded land mines still hiding in the soils of Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and other countries in Southeast Asia. If another unfortunate accident occurs, it is good to know that an injured elephant can be rushed to FAE hospital and receive the medical care needed, including prosthetic legs if required.

Motala visits Mosha at FAE hospital

Note: If you would like to read more about building the Friends of the Asian Elephant prosthetic leg factory, please see this article: “Elephants Will Get New Artificial Legs Soon”.

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